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Guided by the Wise Woman Ways, Red Moon Herbs creates potent herbal products in small batches using the highest quality fresh plant material that is almost all local and all organically grown or wildcrafted.

Started in 1994 by Corinna Wood and Jessica Godino, Red Moon Herbs has seen many changes over the past 20 years, including incredible growth, two apothecaries, and, most recently, stringent compliance with FDA regulations regarding herbal medicines. In 2012, the directorship was passed to from Corinna Wood to Jeannie DunnThroughout these changes, the focus and mission of the business has remained strong and true: to create safe and effective herbal products for the whole family from local, abundant plants.

The Women's Health and Herbal Medicine Blog

Weeds at Our Feet: What Do They Mean?

Weeds at Our Feet: What Do They Mean?

Living in the Wise Woman Way

In my heart, the practice of the Wise Woman Tradition is an ancestral medicine way that passes down from generation to generation even in our subconscious. We may step away from these hands-on skills for multiple generations, but they never really leave us. Harvesting juicy violet leaves, nibbling on early-spring chickweed, pawing through dense clay for potassium-rich dandelion roots - these rituals are built into our cellular memory. They are our birthright and biological imperative.

Our ancestors used what they could reach or what grew right outside their back door. So do/did the granny and grandpa healers who are still alive today. Who had time, resources, or the ability to buy from afar or transport goods along great distances? Exotic Amazonian (as in the jungle, not the retail mogul) antioxidant-rich superfoods were accessible only to those who lived in the Amazon. The name of the game out of necessity was “hyperlocal", and not because it was a buzzword, but because it was life. 

Violet Flowers in a Hand

The substances we use as medicine shift from region to region and may even change among microclimates within one community. A homestead up in a shady holler might use broad-leaf plantain to pack a wound, while those near the sunny meadow down the way might use the lance-leaved variety of the same plant. There is a magic simplicity in knowing the weeds or wild plants which grow closest to your home and touch your bare feet. Gathering abundant medicinal species and making them into tinctures, oils, dried herbs, vinegars, and salves for your own personal apothecary or herbal first aid kit can be done even with scarce monetary resources, as long as the intention, solid identification skills, and willing desire is present. 

Medicine Making in the Wise Woman Tradition

Most important for the home medicine maker is some familiarity with botany, a good field guide, and pure keen observation of when to harvest herbs and how to handle them quickly once harvested so that their peak medicinal potency is preserved. Key rhythmic elements of wise woman medicine making include harvesting leaves and flowers in the spring, collecting seeds in the late summer, and digging roots in the late fall or winter.

Straining nourishing herbal infusion

Harvesting according to the lunar cycle and clipping the aerial parts of plants during the full moon while saving underground roots for the dark of the moon/the new moon is another ritual practice that dates back many centuries. Both our ancestors and modern herbalists understand that they must get to know a plant intimately in order to come into relationship with it and to properly harvest plants at different seasons, therefore gleaning varying nutrients that manifest differently from seed to root and summer to winter.  The cycles of the plant-body, human-body, and earth-body align and the synergy of this collision makes for the best medicine. 

How Medicine Plants Find You

One impactful experience that I’ve had is the sudden and abundant appearance of a plant that is very needed in my life, or the life of a dear friend or family member. This shared story is quite common in the herbal community and often goes something like this: someone is having acute digestive issues and general tummy troubles - cue the dandelions suddenly surrounding the back patio of their home or favorite walking trail. Or a woman who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer encounters a large field of feisty pokeweed near their office or a popup circle of violets in a woodland glade they frequent.

This trend has been observed in the appearance of spiky teasel root in areas where lyme disease-carrying ticks are prevalent. Fascinatingly, teasel is a treasured anti-spirochete, a powerful antidote against the spirochete bacteria that propel lyme. For more on this phenomenon, see this article, "Can Plants Predict the Future?".

Mom and baby wildcrafting medicinal plants
 
Pokeroot and Yarrow
 
One specific plant that pops up all over North America, including the Carolina Piedmont where I grew up, and was used in Appalachian folk medicine is pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). The long-standing tradition of eating poke salat is a rich one. Even if you didn't grow up eating poke greens in spring like I did, you surely heeded the warnings of how poisonous this plant could be and were under strict orders not to the eat berries. But come springtime, carefully selecting the young light green leaves and boiling them in a full three changes of cooking water resulted in a dish which offered the whole family a good "cleaning out" after a long winter. Pokeweed is so powerful a medicine that the extract of its roots is administered in a drop dose, one to three drops at a time.

Poke root (phytolacca americana)

Another traditional southern folk medicine way to ingest poke is to swallow the ripe berries, which stain magenta in the wildest way and are often used as a natural dye. There is an immunity-optimizing spring cleanse protocol which involves swallowing one whole (fresh or frozen) poke berry on day one, two on day two, and so on, up until the tipping point where someone experiences symptoms associated with a strong cathartic dose of the herb (dizziness, nausea), and then stopping.
 
If I had to pick only two herbs to have in my herbal first aid kit and home apothecary, powerful poke would be my first choice. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - for its styptic (blood-stopping) and anti-infective properties - is a close second. But faced with the impossible task of only choosing one, I'd have to regretfully say goodbye to yarrow and stick with poke; that’s how versatile a lymph and immune system-amplifying first aid plant it is, both internally in low doses and topically in an oil or salve. You can learn to make your own pokeweed salve or oil here.

Making herbal salves
 
Weeds as Medicine
 
We have begun to see dandelion greens for sale on the shelves of natural food stores, elderberry has become a mainstream staple for surviving seasonal immune threats, and medicinal mushrooms like reishi are taking their rightful place as adjunct therapy in complementary and "alternative" health clinics. I take heart in believing that the popularity of the medicine of the common, abundant, and hyperlocal plant will one day allow some of the more at-risk plants (see United Plant Savers, an incredibly big-hearted organization we choose to support and partner with, for a full updated list) to have a chance for survival, as people turn back to their indigenous roots and ‘eat the weeds’ again. May these plants that volunteer in your garden, city sidewalks, or patio pots find a special place in your heart and in your medicine cabinet.
 
For plants and people, 
 
Jeannie and Heather
Contemplating a Liver Detox? Read This First

Contemplating a Liver Detox? Read This First

Is it Detox You're After? Or Depth?

Only you know the answer to the question posed above. But don't rush into answering it without letting the relevant organ systems of your body have a say. Culturally, we are in a moment where it is often easier to reach for a heroic seven-day cleansing program of elimination and pleasure denial than it is to peer into the root cause of an issue as something deeper, many-pronged, and not necessarily detox-able. Are those types of cleanses ever necessary? Sure. Sometimes. But what are they avoiding? 

Socially, we have gathered around the now greenwashed ideas of 'clean' eating and 'whole' living as the ultimate good. Are these ideologies bad? No. But they can chip away at the picture of the self as an entity of fully embodied wisdom and paint a picture of the detoxing body pitted against the dirty, chemical-ridden world as bad, unworthy, unclean, or not enough. Which is an idea just as dangerous and demanding as untempered detox itself can be.

Detox has become something of a dirty word in the wise woman tradition, which prefers nourishment over cleansing and supportive sustenance and toning over deprivation and purging (for more on this, see my article Nutritious Nourishment vs. Dirty Detox). This thought follows the model of the body as a sort of self-cleaning oven. And let's be honest, no metaphor for the body (other than perhaps a garden! says the herbalist) is complex or nuanced enough to capture the full reality of the thousands of physiological processes that occur while we sleep and breathe, flow and flounder, consume and excrete.

We contain multitudes. The levels of environmental stressors and the ways in which we experience trauma and stress as inflammation are...dare we say it - unprecedented? And even though we are not (thankfully) entirely responsible for regularly cleaning the gunk of environmental, stress-induced, and food-based toxins out of our system since our body in its wisdom does that largely on its own with appropriate support, there are ways that we can ease and contribute to this process. While it might seem a bit counterintuitive if you've adhered to the model of consistent cleansing, perhaps the best effort we can make towards supporting the body's own detox processes is providing it with richly saturated nutrition so that it has the resources it needs to perform phase I and II detox as effortlessly and beautifully as it was designed to. 

Our biological imperative towards cleansing and purifying the body follows a cyclical, seasonal path. Early spring is traditionally a time for consuming the newly sprouted growth of slightly bitter, chlorophyll-laden herbs which serve to purify and thin the blood and kickstart the sluggish digestion of winter into a new era: clover, cress, chickweed, and wild mustard. Throughout the growing season, these plants become more bitter, chewy, and fibrous, losing their appeal somewhat as other food sources come into fruition. "In the spring, impurities the body has been harboring over the winter can rise. Pathogens dormant within the body during the winter can also rise, causing illness. Spring cleansing of the body forms an important aspect of Southern Folk Medicine, helping thin the blood and ready it for the travails of summer," notes my mentor herbalist Phyllis D. Light.

She speaks of the relationship between herbal medicine and the blood, which is one element we often think of as needing regular cleansing or detoxification. "Blood flows in tune with nature, ebbing and flowing with the seasons. There is a direct correlation between the flow of blood in the body and the flow of sap in trees. In the fall, blood begins to sweeten and get thicker (increase in viscosity) as the weather grows cooler. It sinks downward and pulls inward. Hands and feet endure reduced circulation as the weather chills and blood moves increasingly to the internal organs to keep them warm and nourished. In the spring, blood thins (becomes sour) and begins to rise, moving upward and outward in order to keep the internal organs cooler."

Although new year's day or midwinter is generally a time when many of us with resolutions find ourselves purging all sugar for 30 days or eliminating certain 'cheat' foods that we indulged in over the holidays, midwinter would be a very nontraditional time for cleansing the body as the slow elimination system of the cold season requires deep nourishment and has little access to those new spring greens or warming roots like sassafras and burdock which are considered post-winter purifiers.

Fasting, heroic cleanses, and detox programs may have their place in certain situations where there is severe environmental toxin exposure, the presence of autoimmunity, or certain food sensitivities or allergies (in which case Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's bone broth-heavy GAPS protocol is my go-to). But often what is needed is less a 'hard reset' and more of a solidification of the nutrient and mineral platform the body has to draw from in the first place. 

Phase I and Phase II Detox

The dual phases of liver detox are multi-faceted. Everything we eat, drink, breathe, or put on our bodies is either water or fat soluble. If it's water soluble, it is excreted by kidneys in phase I detox. If it's fat soluble, it is excreted by feces or kidneys in phase II detox. The goal of the healthy liver is to slow down phase I and speed up phase II and there are many ways to boost the body's ability to do this. 

Phase I detox is supported by many nutritive herbs and foods, particularly those which are good sources of B vitamins, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E, and trace mineral selenium (ACES). These constituents help combat free radicals which are generated when the liver breaks down toxic substances. Foods from the brassicaceae plant family - think dark leafy greens like kale and chard as well as broccoli and brussels sprouts - support this transformative process. The herbs that catalyze and support the liver's phase I breakdown process are garlic, onions, turmeric with black pepper, St. John's wort (it does this so well, in fact, that it is this quality of St. John's wort which makes it contraindicated with some pharmaceutical drugs because it clears them out of the liver too quickly), and power-hub ginseng (root/whole plant or leaf). 

Looking to support your liver's take-out-the-trash/recycling-day one? Look to formulas like fire cider or a tonic like Garlic Elixir or Ginseng Elixir. St John's wort or blends which include it, like Sunny Days or Viral Spiral, would also be in this family. 

Phase II detox takes care of any leftovers from the first phase and also processes through most hormones. If there is matter that the liver was unable to breakdown in phase I, it moves it onto phase II. Foods which support phase II detox are rich in healthy proteins, such as beans, lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, and milk. Sulfur-rich herbs like garlic and onions play a big part in phase II processing, as does turmeric (with bioavailability enhanced by black pepper). Conversely, the elements and states which slow down phase II processing which we want to avoid include chemical dyes (think red 40 and yellow no. 5), aspirin, mineral deficiencies, and constant exposure to environmental hazards or long-term medication use. 

The herbs that are classically considered blood cleansers actually do improve phase II liver detox by cleaning or purifying the blood: burdock, yellow dock, dandelion, and red clover dried blossom (or extract, available by special request), for example. Beneficial to the liver's second phase of detox are formulas like Deep Roots, an absorbable turmeric and black pepper blend, and blood-detoxifiers like red clover or a formula like Lymph Love (including red clover). 

Both phases of liver detox are deeply supported with minerals like zinc, selenium, and manganese and greatly hindered by mineral deficiency. The primary mineral-rich herbs are one of the most recognizable and immediate ways to support the detox phases. Think nourishing herbal infusions of nettles, oatstraw, red clover, and linden, plus fire cider or mineral-dense vinegars like Three Sisters Vinegar or Zesty Three Sisters Vinegar (which adds garlic to further assist with phase I and II detox). 

Connecting With Your Roots: Herbs and the Liver

If we take a step back and look at the human body and the plant body as two sides of the same holograph, we can find elements of the human digestion and elimination pathways that sync up with the plant's root system. In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a principle of consuming the organ with which one is challenged. For example, those with a troubled heart would eat the heart of an animal in order to strengthen their physical and emotional heart chakra or qi. In southern folk medicine, 

This holy trinity of roots is what we chose to formulate our Deep Roots liver phase I and II elimination support blend: burdock, dandelion, and yellow dock. There is something beyond synergy in the way these three plants (which happen to often grow in the same landscape and sometimes right next to each other) complement each other.

Burdock is specific for aiding the body in digesting those fat soluble elements which are broken down in phase II as well as acting as a prebiotic which enhances beneficial bacteria activity and spurs the whole nutrient assimilation process. Dandelion root is quite possibly the most abundant and full-spectrum liver nourisher on earth. And if we look into its presence on the planet as an indication of its potential use, we can see a relationship between the dandelions furrowing through the grass of almost every country on every continent and the pervasive presence of liver stagnation which has become so unfortunately universal. Yellow dock not only beefs up iron absorption but smooths and benefits intestinal and colon health; its bitter components also act as the liver's greatest catalyst and asset. 

The roots of these cherished field herbs go a long way in helping us humans forge a relationship with our tangled mass of roots, from the stomach to the intestine and the kidneys to the liver and throughout all the phases of our digestion and elimination process. Coming into relationship with roots which have such a pulse on the heart of the earth as they do - quite literally reaching their tendrils down into the depths in search of minerals and nutrients and pulling them up to the surface where we humans can enjoy their benefits when we consume them - can be profound. Love and appreciation for the liver goes a long way in the healing and care for this tireless organ. Listen to the needs of your liver: is it detox that it needs? Or support of its depth, from the depth of the earth?

Five Ways to Understand More About an Herb

Five Ways to Understand More About an Herb

A PSA about learning your herbs and five methods you can use to learn more about an herb with which you're interested in developing a deeper relationship:

1. Organoleptics - this is a fancy long word we herbalists like to use for 'using your senses'. Undoubtedly the oldest and still one of the most reliable ways to learn about herbs is through firsthand experience with the raw plant (or any preparation of it - tea, tincture, oil etc...). How does it smell? What does it taste like? What do you notice about its texture or its appearance and habitat or growth patterns? All of these sensory aspects of the experience of a plant offer clues about its qualities and how it functions in the human body. For example, as a rule, bitter tasting herbs stimulate the production of stomach acid and promote healthy digestion.

Black Elderberries (Sambucus nigra)

2. What's in a name? Many of the most historically valued herbs have common nicknames which point to some of their properties and possible uses. Take, for example, one old moniker for ground ivy (Glechoma hederaceae): 'ale hoof', which refers to its historical use in beer brewing (nowadays, hops is used). A common name for lobelia (Lobelia inflata - pictured in this post) is pukeweed, which indicates that it must be taken in very small drop doses (1-10 drops at a time), otherwise it may lead to nausea and vomiting.

Medieval Book of Herbal Medicinal Remedies

3. Get off the internet. This might seem a little counterintuitive considering where you're reading this little nugget of advice, but the truth is that the online sphere is one of the worst (though at times, also the best) place to learn about herbs. SO much of the information about herbs online is copied and pasted in various forms from questionable material, written by ghostwriters who have no actual familiarity with herbs, or either simply scare tactics or marketing ploys with only the most basic understanding/misunderstanding of an herb's actual characteristics. Pull out your trusty herb books and use the indexes to look up reliable information or head to your library and swoop up some good botanical references.

4. Remember that while we love to teach and share, we are very limited in what we can say and often aren't permitted to tell you what conditions an herb might be used for for legal reasons. Rather than relying on us to offer up wisdom like _____ is good for ____, we challenge y'all to do your own research! As a bonus, any information that you learn on your own about how a plant is used is more likely to stick with you if you research it yourself.

Old Field Lavender Farm

5. While our beloved bestselling herbs like echinacea, elderberry, and arnica are always in style and at this point almost household names in certain circles, a good herbal apothecary is stocked with so much more than these old favorites. Some of our lesser known but highly valued medicinal herbs include treasures like ground ivy, liferoot, cleavers, spilanthes, feverfew, kudzu root, lobelia, pedicularis, poke, Solomon's seal, usnea, wild lettuce, and yellow dock. As a challenge to yourself, pick one lesser known herb per week or month and use the methods above to learn more about it and incorporate into you and your family's medicinal materia medica. You may be surprised at how integral an herb like poke or lobelia becomes to your first aid/self-care kit once you learn how multifaceted and versatile it is.